Christie has sights set on sprint double

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The Independent Online
Events here this weekend offer Britain a welcome chance to make a good impression in Europe. While their cattle remain banned by the European Union, their athletes have travelled for the two-day European Cup more in expectation than hope.

"It'll be the biggest export of British beef this month," predicted the national director of coaching, Malcolm Arnold. He can afford to be bullish about Britain's prospects given the strength of the men's team, which looks on a par with the one which won the Cup seven years ago in Gateshead.

The British men's hopes of repeating their Gateshead victory will be challenged by the holders, Germany, and a strong Russian team. The women will do well to repeat their third place in France last year.

The 1995 Cup at Villeneuve d'Ascq, where Britain's men finished second to Germany and their women were third behind Russia and Germany, was dominated by the prodigious triple jumping of Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards will be there again this weekend, as will Britain's other world record holder, Colin Jackson, in the 110m hurdles.

Linford Christie, seeking a third sprint double in this competition, will lead a men's team which he said last week could win the competition. Christie, as much as anyone, has responded over the years to the all-for- one, one-for-all attitude which this competition encourages. But with the Olympics looming next month, there is an extra edge to the occasion.

Jonathan Ridgeon, earning his first international vest in four years after a third comeback from injury, is aiming to get Britain off to an encouraging start in the opening track event, the 400m hurdles. But he will also be seeking a time of around 49.50sec to set him up for the Olympic trials two weeks hence.

Sally Gunnell, beaten in her 400m hurdles comeback race in Jena last Saturday, is expecting to make more of an impression on the winner that day, Sylvia Rieger, who runs for Germany. "I expect to get a lot closer to her," Gunnell said. "I have had two very good training sessions this week, but I need another two, three or four races to get back in the right direction."

Tessa Sanderson, who achieved the Olympic javelin qualifying distance two weeks ago after a four-year absence from the sport, will throw once again in a competition where she first appeared in 1977.

Kelly Holmes, who races at 800m today, will do a 1500m in the Rome grand prix on Wednesday before deciding whether to do one or both events at the Olympics.

The British men's success could turn upon the performance of their middle distance runners. David Strang, recovered after having his arm broken by an elephant in South Africa, has great potential in the 800m, as does Keith Cullen in the 5,000m. Anthony Whiteman, the European indoor silver medallist at 1500m, and Gary Lough (3,000m) may also be able to excel themselves.